Try it, you might like it… or not.

Justina Robson has put up an appeal in The Independent (UK) for more women to give sf a chance. Now, that’s an idea I don’t have any problem with. Me, I want all nice girls and boys, and nasty girls and boys, and all furry green aliens from Alpha Centauri, to give it a chance. What I disagree with her about is that women can’t deal with science and math in it, and somehow ‘the patriarchy’ is making it seem unattractive. Maybe there are physics or math or engineering students or lecturers who really don’t want pesky girls in their treehouse. Most of them that I’ve met, if you showed genuine understanding and interest in their subject, couldn’t care less if you were green and had three heads. They love their subject and if you’re one of them, other characteristics are secondary, and mostly irrelevant, except you might be the girl of their dreams because you are female and intelligent and able to share their passion – making you rare and wonderful. I’ve certainly found the same about hardcore sf readers and indeed a fair number of writers. But let’s have a considered look at what she says. Italics direct quotes. Bold my view.

In the late 1970s Theodore Sturgeon, a prolific writer and critic in the field of science fiction and fantasy (SFF), remarked: “All the good new SF writers are women, except for James Tiptree Jnr.”

Now whether you agreed with Sturgeon or not (not, in my case. I think in the ‘70’s Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle were also worth finding for a start) what you had then was a reasonable case for invoking the Bumiputera syndrome – if it is harder for any group to enter a specific profession, that group will, on average, be better at it than those who find entry easier. Make it harder for men to enter Romance – there will still be exceptional female Romance writers, but the standard among male Romance writers will be higher than the female standard. The same applies to any field, any group.

This situation no longer applies to women in sf/fantasy. The last count I did had far more women than men as new authors in traditional publishing. Do I have to explain what that means in terms of the same syndrome? Counter-intuitively, short term ‘advantage’ works against the overall perception of group quality in the long term. If you actually want men (or women, or you-name-it) to appear superior writers in general, make it harder for them.

However outside the genre community where the “casual” bulk of the book-buyers exist, the figures tell a story of female author sales of 30 per cent

So… where are these figures from? How are they separated from ‘fandom’? Is this a Mike Glyer type fan, or WisCon fan or just a person who reads and loves sf? Without seeing the figures, I assume that just means general sales, and that ‘fandom’ is assumed to be a very tiny proportion. Of course that too is a moving target. Some of us only sell to fandom and make a living at it. But basically this says that, actually, given her assumed equality of purchase with in ‘fandom’ that in the wider world, that’s actually lower. 25% say. Keep that figure in mind.

Since 1954 women have reached on average less than 20 per cent representation in genre awards, sometimes as low as 12 per cent, and this includes the fantasy genre in which the genders are roughly equal in their publication output.

And since 1954 the mobile/cell phone ownership has reached on average less than 20% too. Of course that’s not the average THIS year or recently. Sometimes – most of that time – it was as low as zero %. It’s hard to tell what she means here, and of course, we can’t look at her data sources to make sense of it, because she doesn’t cite them. But awards lag participation so we shall see. And women are more demographically represented than other groups.

Besides anything else, there is a near complete disconnect between sales and representation in genre awards (ergo The SAD PUPPY III program, to change that.)

and this includes the fantasy genre in which the genders are roughly equal in their publication output.

Roughly equal only if you do not separate new authors, where women exceed men. It is old male authors that make it LOOK roughly equal. Can you extrapolate that into the future?

Last November, a Goodreads poll indicated that female readers (who buy two thirds of all the books sold in Britain) rate books by women slightly higher than those by men

2/3! Now first there’s a figure really SHOULD upset all authors, and worry all readers, particularly those who want their girl-child (or are that woman) to have a happy successful relationship, good for raising kids and building a prosperous, happy society, good to live in.

Firstly, that’s a huge lose (to be equal, and make up that 33% difference men would have to buy twice the books than they do now*) for authors purely at the mercenary level – even if income was split 50/50 between the sexes (it isn’t. Men earn more, not because of sexism, but because they don’t have babies, or in general stay home and raise them, and on average work longer, years and hours, and more of them at jobs that are vile, dirty, dangerous, but need doing, and are thus well-paid. I’m a big advocate of equal work / equal pay… but that means you hump the same 16 tons of number nine coal in the same time for the same dollars.) Given that men do in fact have more money, we’re looking at, conservatively, authors having 40% less money than they could have. Yes, I think I could get upset about that.

Secondly, in the long term implication is very clear. If there are less men buying, there are probably less men reading. And yes, couples that share interests (like reading) are more stable. And kids who come from stable families just do produce better outcomes. Very Un-PC, but very logical. Kids who read do better in school, and life too. And about 50% of those kids will be male. It’s not just in male interests to see men buying books in the same volume (or in authors’ interests). It’s in everyone’s long term interest. However, it seems Robson isn’t worried about this. That, it appears, is just hunky-dory (which is a really masculine kind of ship, in case you wanted to know).

Note that female readers (on Goodreads which is a poor sampling method for the general reading public) rate books by women slightly higher than those by men. Not ‘much better’ or ‘don’t read’. SLIGHTLY. Remember this.

And yet, 2013 data from VIDA, which tracks women’s presence in the literary arts across the board, reflects the same old 30 per cent for visibility. So sci-fi sales for women are 10 per cent below the total literary average and that average is 20 per cent below parity.

I struggled to make sense out of this. What is visibility, and how do you measure it? Do you break it up into new authors and old? Are we back to awards? Surely occupying about 50% of shelf space is what you get out of about 50% authors? How is 30% of sales 10% below the literary average (I assume this VIDA visibility) of 30%? So: 30% is 10% below 30%… Whut? Parity with what? 50:50 sex ratio, or 2/3 purchases by people who slightly prefer women authors?

But doesn’t this indicate that in sci-fi overall the sales and exposure merely reflect the population levels of sci-fi readership in the wider world? Men and women tend to stick to their own when picking authors – 90 per cent of the top 50 books read by men were by male authors, and vice versa for women, according to Goodreads.

Er. Hello. ‘men and women tend to stick to their own when picking authors’ Whut? What happened to ‘SLIGHTLY’ earlier? And how in #$%% hell do you manage to square 2/3 of book purchases with 30% of women authors bought unless… you’re assuming that in sf actually purchases are 70% by men? Which you’d think would make any forward-looking person cheer, there is an area where men are buying. I think she is misunderstanding the ‘90% of the top 50’. I’m not sure of the methodology used, and don’t care enough to look it up, if it is available, but ‘top 50 read’ is NOT – no matter what parameters you use – the same as ‘purchases’. I might buy 800 books by women and 200 by men, and still end up with a personal 45/50 favorites by men. And I’ll bet that actually what is being described here is the top 50 books which got voted for by men or women. A lot of women might vote Robson as one of their top 50. A lot of men might vote Weber as one of their top 50. Does this mean men don’t read Robson? No. It just means they don’t like her as much as Weber, and vice versa. A ‘slight’ preference can be consistent with that. It isn’t with 90% purchasing preference, which is what she seems to be implying. I am definitely a man. I looked. I certainly don’t have 90% male author collection. I can’t think of ever finding this disparity and I’ve never visited a human without looking at their books!

The next paragraph simply leaves me confused. I can only cope with tertiary plus 8 years, so it is probably too clever for me. I think she has a problem with someone’s pre-conceptions. Instead of this being their problem (and hers) for the innate sexual discrimination against teen males, who really are human, despite appearances, I think it’s all the fault ‘the patriarchy’. Again. They’re busy lil’ fellers.

“I was told by someone who has been in publishing a lot of years that the content of my books really didn’t matter. They put a woman [author] on the cover and that would determine sales. A man on the cover, any man, and sales would be higher.” If this is a belief at the publishing gateway level it’s hardly surprising that sales follow.

So we have hearsay about the gatekeepers (aka traditional publishing) which directly contradicts the actual evidence of equal numbers that she quotes earlier, but I suppose it’s a case equal rights. “A woman hears what she wants to hear, and disregards the rest.” (With apologies to S&G) – unless the publishers are buying books by women for ideological reasons and not because they have the customers and the faith in them. Yes, that always works well.

Ok I’ll pass on the patriarchy. We know it’s all men’s fault they’re not buying a lot more books. The customer is wrong, of course. And he’s probably not taking out the trash or dealing with the dead rat. I’m kinda with the radio guy. I’m just not that into books which are all sexual politics, feelings and angst from the female POV, and sex resulting from the same. It’s like asking me to be interested in a book which is only about model railways. I don’t do model railways (I know some people adore them), and there is a limit to how much I can read about it no matter how well you write it. You mix it lightly into a great story, and it’s different. But whatever you like, you’re welcome to write it or read it. Just don’t be offended if I color myself disinterested in reading it. However I’m up for this challenge.

‘ like finding an elephant with a laser rifle surfing on a shark inside your bedroom and then writing about what you had for breakfast.’

“I am never going to have LSD for breakfast again,” thought Freda, crawling away from the shark surfing elephant with a laser rifle in her bedroom.

I don’t mind if people who don’t like novels like mine don’t read it. Though such comments as, “This isn’t sci-fi because sci-fi is about manly things, like science and maths, and you’re ruining it with all your chintz and feelings” are so depressing, and I do mind very much about this seizing of an entire category.

I prefer it if people who don’t like novels like mine don’t read them, actually. Why would I want them to read something they don’t like? No, I have no mission to ‘raise consciousness’ or educate them. So long as you don’t endlessly carp about my not having chintz and feelings, or not getting them right, I’m cool with you, or anyone, doing whatever you please. However the label ‘sf’ just makes it easier for me to find what I do like. So I appreciate people getting confused and upset when they buy what they think will be laser rifles and space ships and science, and they get chintz and feelings. That’s not helping the customer, and I appreciate the problem. Maybe making sure you CAN judge a book by its cover is a good idea. Also, you know this cultural appropriation thing there’s all this PC fuss about? Well, um, if it was a male culture (which it was) do you think they might have slightly more right to decide what they think it is than newcomers? Or is that ol’ patriarchy again? Busy chap, ol’ Pat.

I’m in the selling books lark, myself. I want my readers to see my name, see the cover, and know what they’re buying. I don’t personally give a toss if they have testicles or not, or what color or orientation they are. I have enough fan contact to know I get a broad spectrum. So long as they’re buying a book they like I am cool with it. I want as big an audience as possible and as under-served an audience as possible. Now who would that be?

And, um, redecorating for the girls is fine… if they come. But if those nasty smelly boys don’t want to come into their redecorated playroom – and they’re not prepared to change the décor to something the boys might like too, well, these women writers may find that actually the boys made up quite a lot of the buyers of that bought 30% of women authors in general public (or 25%, by the general public). Let’s say only 1/3 (2/3 of books bought by women)… Hmm. I hope these redecorators can attract another 10% of women who want their décor to just keep them even.

Dividing the audience doesn’t work. Possibly losing your existent audience in the hope of catching a new one… is a high risk strategy.
*corrected thanks to Stephen Gradijan. My apologies


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68 responses to “Try it, you might like it… or not.

  1. Makes you wonder where those numbers were pulled from, and why they smell like that. As a woman in STEM classes, I don’t see this bias they keep ranting about. Not that it might not have been there in the past. But now? Quite the opposite.

    • So much of the rant seems to actually relate to an earlier age, one that most of the ranters didn’t live through. Even when I went to uni – back with the dinosaurs she mentioned, when fax machines were the leading edge, the ‘hard’ subjects were always so desperate for able students that ability came far and away first. And the students who did them were inevitably fanatics about the subjects. There were a few girls. They were rather like the girl who goes to the shooting range and shows herself competent, or the girl who shoes up at the climbing wall and aces routes – very welcomed.

      • I well remember my reception when I asked to learn how to rock-climb, and then proved I was serious. They stopped looking at me like a girl, and started teaching me. I just wish I’d been able to learn more (ran out of time, and now… I’m too old & fat).

  2. chantillary

    The first quoted comment, “In the late 1970s Theodore Sturgeon, a prolific writer and critic in the field of science fiction and fantasy (SFF), remarked: “All the good new SF writers are women, except for James Tiptree Jnr.”” makes me wonder what he was talking about.

    Given that James Tiptree Jnr was a woman (Alice Bradley Sheldon,_Jr.), was he confused as to her sex, thinking that she was a male who was a good new SF writer; or was he saying that she wasn’t a good new SF writer?

    • He was confused about her sex. Various incarnations of the same are trotted out regularly to prove how sexist men are (back in 1970).

    • She set out deliberately to be taken as a male, and it lasted into ’77; ” an emotionally robust and engaging middle-aged man with Pentagon experience whose only oddity was that no one had ever met him.”

      I hardly think it can count as “confusion” when you refer to someone as they have portrayed themselves; similarly, the notion that it’s proof of how sexist things were that folks didn’t assume someone who wrote stories that were highly sympathetic to women was a woman makes my head hurt. Sexism would be going “obviously only a man can write something like that.”

    • Did he really not know or was it a really awesome straight line?

      • I remember reading somewhere they were in a writer’s group together, so….

        • Oh, my… I was trying to find anything on that, and found this article from the NYTimes, year before I was born:

          • That’s a fabulous find, Foxfier. I thought this was interesting, “Their suspicions were spoken by a brave 9-year-old boy who asked the members of a Lunacon panel, ”Are all you women trying to get vengeance on the men?” ”Not anymore,” dystopian writer Suzy McKee Charnas told him. ”I wrote that out of my system.” ” I’ve talked to Suzy, probably much less than I would have liked to. She can express ideas that I disagree with entirely without being the least insulting. On a con panel when I think that the panelists are missing the point, she’ll bring it up. I can absolutely imagine her saying that.

            There’s writing something out of your system… and then there is wallowing in it… and then there is creating a whole fantasy history of science fiction where what the NYT article describes Never Happened.

  3. I too would like to know where the numbers come from, and I would also like to know who taught her statistics. Any of this number crunching comes from a source of people who like to put numbers is fussy little charts. But then you need to know their source, too.

    I come from a family of scientists, and they would scoff at this use of numbers. I used to be STEM when women there were few and far between. I got out not because I didn’t like it, but because I was in the way-back time when a woman in math couldn’t yet get into the better graduate schools. But that was long ago, and I don’t see that mind set anymore. So bravo to women in STEM (men too) and if you want chintz and lace, I’m sure there’s someone writing it.

    • Ah-ha! Something about ‘fussy little charts’ made the connection– her stats sound like what you get when someone puts together a bunch of those ‘infographics.’ A lot of rounding, wishy-washy definition shifting, and funky sampling, and you get some really funny results if you combine different ones.

      • Dan Lane

        It really does, now that you mention it. Surface numbers from hither and yon, with wildly different basic methodology beneath.

        This sort of thing makes me want to suggest “How to Lie With Statistics” as required reading for Civics classes. I can’t even begin to follow those numbers, and I *did* try.

      • There are no ‘good’ stats for the field, other than very simple stuff (like me actually counting publications at the various large publishers. Before I did that, several authors were swearing blind that the publishers was totally against women.) The infographics are largely nonsense or so cherry picked and unverifiable to ‘prove’ whatever the point is they want to make.

        • Oh, goodness, yes– but you can always make information less accurate by removing what background it originally had! Then there’s the issue of context… I spent a good ten minutes complaining about my husband this morning, one could say. In reality, I did a humorous monolog about how terrible it is that he wasn’t both a mind-reader, a telekinetic and blessed with foreknowledge, because I’d set up a nice little system for the dishes that evaporated on contact with anybody else going near the main sink in the house.

    • Some women – certainly not all of them, but certainly not all men either – are perfectly capable of maths and science. My daughter-in-laws would both come in the top 10% of any ‘sex blind’ test of the same, and the woman I married verged on the genius level with math. I got quite irritated by the pigeon-holing of women as being all alike, and all interested in the same chintz.. Actually, I think pigeon holes are good for pigeons.

      • But very few people believed that in the dark ages of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. And I agree on pigeonholes.

        • SF/Fantasy has a provable track record of being years – if not decades ahead in accepting this. They led the way. So I do get mildly irritated by the sneers at those old codgers who led the field at that time – who were a long, long way ahead of literary fiction for example, being sneered at as being reactionaries. They’re being judged by present metrics, not against their peers of the time.

        • phunctor

          Yah, my first wife, Dr. Pedder, (hi Jocelyn, wherever you are!) kept getting asked “if she could type” when she tried looking for a job ca ~1970. I haven’t seen that mindset lately. Thank all big and little Ghods.

  4. Luke

    Well, if you exclude fantasy, and restrict to physical books only, my science fiction collection approaches 90% male.
    The ratio gets even higher if you limit it to “hardbacks, in good condition, that my wife will let me display where people might actually see them”.

    • 🙂 as soon as you start having to restrict classes, I get a bit suspicious. what you’re doing by saying restrict to physical books etc, is saying you have preference for certain authors – not that you won’t buy sf by women. Now, if the author of one of those hardbacks in good condition turned out to be a modern James Tiptree/Alice Sheldon – would you toss them out?

      • Reality Observer

        Looking at my library – well, a large number of the books in good condition are ALSO by males.

        The shabby and worn ones are mostly by females. (Or at least authors that are not in my “straight, white, male, leaning well to the conservative political side” categorization.)

        What does that say about my reading habits, hmmm?

        (Now, I have to admit that most of my Heinleins are in excellent shape right now. But that is because they’re on their third generation, along with my McCaffreys, Bujolds, etc.)

  5. So, she said: “This isn’t sci-fi because sci-fi is about manly things, like science and maths, and you’re ruining it with all your chintz and feelings” are so depressing, and I do mind very much about this seizing of an entire category.

    Well, chintz and feelings have their place…often in other genres. They can fit within SFF as well, of course, but they also need to be balanced against science and math.

    No, it doesn’t have to be hard SF. Hell, I can’t write hard SF. I don’t have enough of a background to really do it the way I’d want to do it, which is have everything pass muster with the scientist readers. So, I sympathize with her there. However, I still have to have science fiction elements, which means something that looks like science and math.

    It’s like the dinosaur story. Personally, I think that was the kind of thing she was talking about, the blowback against that story being so beloved by the SF Literati, but so many of us screaming how it wasn’t science fiction. The thing is, I could tell that story with all of the same chintz and feelings, and make it an actual SF story. That is what we railed against, not the existence of feelings in the story.

    Of course, there seem to be an awful lot of straw men in that article to start with. We could spend weeks knocking them all down.

    • Jim McCoy

      Well, chintz and feelings have their place…often in other genres. They can fit within SFF as well, of course, but they also need to be balanced against science and math.

      Yes, Science Fiction includes lots of sciences. That’s the way it’s supposed to be… BUT…

      If it doesn’t evince emotion it’s not good fiction. I don’t care if it’s SF or Romance or freaking Opera. That’s just the way it goes. Make people care about you characters and what they’re doing and they’ll be interested.

    • Tom – the way I see it like this. Regency Romance is very much about the dress, manners, social lives and love-interest of the Regency Characters. Now there may be a balloon ride or a highwayman in there. But they’re not really the meat of the story – they’re the mcguffin. Now, along comes Joe, and writes a book which is very close to the norm of dress, manners, social lives and love interest – with maybe a fraction more on highwaymen. Readers are dead happy with finding a new author. Most of those readers happen to be women. It’s a successful ‘brand’ and popular with the audience that likes that product. Fred looks at this and says ‘I want write Regency Romance too. But I don’t have much interest in dress, manners, social lives and love interests. I want guns and action, so most of it highwaymen. And a balloon chase. With blunderbusses. Because more men will like it then.’ Which may be true, but men won’t in general buy regency romance, and if they do, they expect regency romance. And women who do buy regency romance are going to hate it. In fact, if the industry in haste not to be seen as sexist, and given Joe’s success, have bought lots more like Fred… the women and many of the men who bought regency romance… will stop buying it. I don’t think many men will arrive to replace them, because it will take years to change that historical reputation. Basically the once valuable ‘brand’ has lost its old following, and failed to catch a new one. Readers, if they buy at all, will only buy from female authors. It’s been bad for everyone.

      And that’s what I see happening in sf. I’d see it a black shame if the ‘Joes’ have to be excluded by it. But the Freds are not actually helping anyone. They’d be better writing historical adventure in a regency setting, if you get my drift.

    • There are a few rather loud people who have one definition of science fiction and it’s hard. Period. Nevermind, you know, that the Golden Age was something more like magic most of the time, even if one takes into account that some things might have seemed scientifically possible then that we feel aren’t possible now. Boy’s adventure stories where one hopped onto the family space ship and managed to crash yourself on an alien planet run by women who all look like the girl you sit behind in Chemistry rather than your aunt Agnes. Great fun.

      I have a good deal of sympathy for people who really want Big Science in their science fiction. But I have less for those who fuss about how Space Opera is illegitimate.

      That said, getting all fussed about how science fiction doesn’t have the “people” stories that girls like most is just… fantasy. A significant portion of it out there is undisguised romance.

      • Angus Trim

        Forgive me if I’ve hung this in the wrong space, I seem to have gotten dizzy and lost again.

        Definitions have changed over the years. Space Opera being one thing that has changed. What was a Space Opera in 1969 would still be a Space Opera today. But that isn’t necessarily the case if we do vice versa.

        Some of the changes in definition are just evolution, the genres have evolved, and so has the culture.

        Urban Fantasy really didn’t exist as a separate subgenre in 1969. It’s evolving pretty fast right now.

        Other definitions have been changed because of our friends the SJWs. Personally, I think we should help them with definitions, and define everything with message first {particularly SJW message} as Social Studies Fiction.

        • My husband and I disagree fundamentally on the definition of Space Opera. For him, it’s Epic Space Opera. For me it’s a Darkship and a Blaster. His deals with casts of thousands. Mine deals with a scruffy crew.

  6. heh, I was struck on how closely this fits what Milady Sarah has been posting these past few days. Just change the subjects a bit.

  7. Stephen Gradijan


    You wrote:

    “Last November, a Goodreads poll indicated that female readers (who buy two thirds of all the books sold in Britain) rate books by women slightly higher than those by men

    “2/3! Now first there’s a figure really SHOULD upset all authors, and worry all readers, particularly those who want their girl-child (or are that woman) to have a happy successful relationship, good for raising kids and building a prosperous, happy society, good to live in.

    “Firstly, that’s a huge lose (to be equal men would have to buy 33% more books than they do now)”

    That last sentence is something I think you got wrong, but perhaps I am not awake yet? Assume 30 million books bought during a sample time period, with 2/3 of them bought by women. That means 20 million bought by women, and 10 million bought by men. For men to buy an equal amount, while holding purchases by women steady, then men would have to buy an additional 10 million during that time period to equal the 20 million that women bought. Which is to say, the men would have to increase their purchases by 100%, not the 33% that you cite.

    Needless to say that that adds to your overall argument, not subtracts from it.

    I haven’t checked the rest of your math, but I heartily agree with your overall sentiment that the writer in question is drawing poor conclusions from the alleged data in question.

    • You are absolutely correct and I am wrong. I simply took the 33% from the female side. Overtired and not thinking it through with numbers. I am thus correcting it. Thank you.

  8. Dave, agree of course, BUT…
    Your line on LSD for breakfast startled a shout of laughter out of me. It scared the cats and sent the boys running to me to see if I was dying. Then they laugh-screamed. The trauma of the cats and our damp shoes is on your head, sir. Think shame on yourself.

  9. My book collection is about half and half. I think Heyer cancels out Pratchett at this point.

    • Well, I have a lot TP, a lot of Heyer, a lot Andre Norton, a lot of Simak, a lot of McCaffery, a lot of Zelazny, a lot of Cherryh, a lot of Heinlein, a lot of Bujold… and so on. If you take books as a whole, more female authors than male, if you take sf, more male than female.

  10. John R. Ellis

    I’ve heard that spritzing a bit of spot cleaner can make one’s chintzy feelings even chintzy-er!


    Seriously, though, I’m having flashbacks to pretty much any editorial over in the graphic novel/comic book/manga fandom, where for about 23 years the fans who, say, only enjoy reading Batman or Wolverine have been torn new ones for not having the RIGHT tastes.

    Personally, my favorite comics are things like dark fantasy, horror, humor, SF, or romance….but darned if I’ll ever try to shame somebody for being content with just liking a narrow selection. It’s their time and money.

    One would think the solution would be to search for common ground…what in the other stories would potentially appeal to them. Is the angsty heroine also the only person with a code that can stop all robots from becoming renegade death droids?

    Is the character struggling with sexual identity also a samurai who quells demons?

    There’s sometimes an opening….somewhere.

    • *plants fists on hips* And just what is wrong with reading Wolverine (classic series), pray tell? Even if Logan is Canadian? Do the arbiters of taste have something against pugnacious, short people? Huh? HUH?

      • John R. Ellis

        Yes, yes they do.

        • :-)TXRed. They have no discrimination, and less common sense. (Says the guy writing a Pictish ‘dwarf’ as his lead character). I’ve always found their tastes improve rapidly when I’m standing on them with hob-nailed boots.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        I liked the original idea about “what” Wolverine was. He was supposed to be a “genetically engineered *wolverine*” not a human mutant. [Wink]

        • John R. Ellis

          Len Wein has stated that’s just a myth started by Steve Gerber to troll him, so take that with a grain of mutated salt.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Chris Claremont is said to have been playing around with the idea that Wolverine was “created” by the High Evolutionary (Long after Len Wein created Wolverine).

  11. Perhaps the argument by Justina Robson was valid when the traditional publisher model ruled. It makes no dam sense now, in any way, because indie has not only opened the door to everyone, it’s also where anything that looks like innovation takes place (except Baen. Always, always excepting Baen).

  12. I don’t care enough to actually try to figure it out but while reading I thought that, yes, women read vast amounts of romance so it makes a whole lot of sense that women read that much more than men. And if I asked myself, Self, what does it mean which authors reach those outside of the genre? If it is which books are arguably science fiction but not marketed as such, you’ve got mostly sci-fi-ish thrillers… which, yes, do seem to be dominated by a few very big name male authors. But… what about Hunger Games? Or the other female authored sci-fi-ish or dystopian YA mega sellers?

  13. I’m trying to figure out a commercial reason for dividing books into “what women will buy” and “what men will buy.” OK, I can see bookstores looking at ease of shopping deciding to have Romance collected over here and Men’s Adventures over there. The crossover buyers might be small enough in number to not matter inconveniencing. In SF/F? No way. It would be insane in bookstores, and it’s equally insane for a writer to cater so strongly to one gender that the other avoids your books. What are these people on? Oh, right. LSD for breakfast.

    • The same reason they snicker about the Tiptree quote, when thinking about it means all the good new writers were female– they think there’s an elemental difference in what we read and write that is directly connected to what’s in our pants; denying it is proof of sexism, I think.

      Like I said, makes my head hurt. The folks who want to insist there’s no difference between male and female also think the difference is so elemental that it directly accounts for reading tastes and writing ability, rather than believing there are differences and they can influence what kind of writing it is likely for a member of a sex to produce.

      • So, refusing to be sexist is sexist. Got it… My head hurts, though, and I can’t take anything week before surgery. And it’s your fault.

      • phunctor

        You’re giving the supremacists far to much credit for honesty.

        • Probably. Part of why I’m such a pest with asking for sources and questioning things is that I am too likely to think folks are being honest– even if it’s only an implied sort of honesty, like having actually checked what they’re telling you.

    • Angus Trim

      Well, you if we were to throw in the stuff written in the 30’s, and stock them on bookstore shelves like it was written yesterday, you’d probably find quite a few novels that would attract men, but would turn women off…..

      “Year of the Dragon” by Robert E. Howard. Think there’d be many women lining up to buy that?

      Going later, how about John Norman’s “Gor” series? Maybe the first book, but after that it took a real turn to a direction only a certain segment would covet. Probably overwhelmingly male.

      There is some Urban Fantasy available that is written by women for women. Looking for something new, I ran across a book that had “dhampir” in the blurb. Considering there is a series with a dhampir as the main character written by a married couple, and I enjoyed it, I thought I’d try the new one.

      By the third chapter I found myself stuck in the second explicit sex scene from the female perspective, and looking ahead, realized it had twenty pages to go before the “story” started again. Actually, it was obvious that sex was the whole point of the book, it was more porn than what I interpret as Fantasy.

      Definitely for a female subset of customer.

      I think if someone really wanted to, you could break it down to what would appeal to which gender the most. You likely would also find a lot of crossover {David Weber anyone?}.

      • Angus Trim

        My minor disorientation is still with me it seems. That should have been “Hour of the Dragon”, not “Year of the Dragon”.

      • No, it’s more what NYC editors think women want. I hate EXPLICIT and non-needed sex in books, and so do most women I know.
        If I WANT erotica, I’ll BUY erotica.

        • I like to know what I’m getting at least. I tend to assume that anything “vampire” is going to be erotica of one sort or another. My problem with romances lately is that there’s no way to tell between something that’s got lots of sex and something that’s got BDSM-ish sex. Meanwhile I notice that the amount of shelf space taken up by “Love Inspired” or other Christian category romance is rapidly expanding.

        • The admittedly hearsay evidence is that that is a MAJOR factor in YA sales – women – and men, who are after a comfort read, and don’t want the obligatory detailed sex. So: what are our gifted and brilliant NY publishing and literary establishment doing? Saying they need more explicit sex, and various varieties and fetishes etc. in YA. Because the kids are doing it (which, um, the ones who read, aren’t). Honestly, is there anything they can’t stuff up?

      • As I understand it, the later Gor are textual porn, and rather odd at that (well, beyond being text, rather than the currently more common video); ditto for the sadly very prevalent “Urban Fantasy” type you mention. They may be most likely read by only one sex, but they ARE NOT going to appeal to most of that sex. (Although the fans will insist that they do, and anyone who says that they don’t is lying…. Ugh.)

        There’s probabilities for the rest of it, but… well, my aunt is a yoga instructor, grade-school teacher, lapsed Mormon, snooty wine-drinking and liberal as the day is long… and they named their son Conan. When she’s had enough to drink, she’s also able to talk coherently about normal fannish stuff.

        • Angus Trim

          It would be nice if there was more “truth in advertising”. In my mind, the first Gor book was fascinating, and had a great world built.

          The second was ok, the third it went off the rails. But the war of the sexes, and bondage was so popular to some folks, the series kept going.

          I didn’t finish the third one, but was amazed at how much shelf space the series took after a few years.

          Even back in the 70s, I thought it would have been nice if this stuff could have been segregated. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of good coin on stuff that wasn’t a fit.

  14. “That’s a mighty large statistic you’ve got there. It must have hurt like hell when you pulled it out of your ass.”

    (Been saving that one a while.)